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Formula Feeding

Choosing how to feed your baby is one of the most important decisions you will make in your baby’s life.

Breastfeed or formula feed?

Choosing how to feed your baby is one of the most important decisions you will make in your baby’s life.  Many mothers worry that they will not have enough breastmilk. Some mothers have had a bad experience with breastfeeding before or are going back to school or work in a few weeks or months. Some mothers have personal or health reasons for deciding not to breastfeed. You may have decided to feed your baby formula instead of breastfeeding or in addition to breastfeeding. Here is some information to help you make your decision about feeding.
Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dieticians of Canada and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

If you decide not to breastfeed or to breastfeed and formula feed, your baby needs a commercial iron-fortified infant formula. Talk to your baby’s care provider about which formula to use. Formula will be provided for your baby while your baby is in hospital.

  • Your baby is born with extra fluids to keep him/her well hydrated while he/she is learning to feed.

  • The first breast milk, colostrum, is just right for your baby and meets all of his/her needs for the first few days.

  • Colostrum is small in amount to fit into the baby’s tiny tummy and thick so the baby can learn to suck, swallow and breathe easily while feeding.

  • Colostrum “paints” your baby’s tummy and intestines to help protect him/her from infections.

  • Any amount of colostrum is good for your baby. If you do not want to put your baby to your breast, your nurse can show you how to express your colostrum and give it to your baby.

  • Milk production starts in pregnancy. In the first few days you are literally producing drops per feed. This is a clear fluid called colostrum and it’s very concentrated. Small volumes for small baby tummies. The baby instinctively feeds often, not just to feed, but to help establish mom’s milk supply. In the first few days there may be cluster feeding, which is normal.

  • If your baby is not feeding well, you can increase your milk production by expressing your milk at least eight (8) times per day. Your nurse will show you how to give this milk to your baby.

  • Giving formula in the first few days may reduce your baby’s interest in feeding at the breast and also reduce mom's milk supply.

  • Formula feeding does not protect your baby from developing allergies, childhood diabetes, some childhood cancers and ear, lung and intestinal infections.

  • Breast feeding protects you against breast and ovarian cancers as well as bone loss. Formula feeding does not. Breastfeeding will help you lose the weight you gained during your pregnancy. Formula feeding will not.

  • Occasionally a baby may need extra milk for medical reasons. Colostrum/breast milk is the first choice due to its protective effects.

  • If a baby needs extra milk above what is produced, formula will be used as your baby’s immediate health is most important. If you decide to give your baby both breastmilk and formula, exclusive breastfeeding in the first few weeks will help your body to keep making breastmilk later when you introduce formula.

  • If you had problems before with breastfeeding, the nurses and lactation consultant can work with you to increase the chance of breastfeeding going well this time.
If you decide to give your baby both breast milk and formula, exclusive breastfeeding in the first few weeks will help your body to keep making breast milk later when you introduce formula.

Frequency and amount of formula

Newborns have tiny tummies. In the first three days, your baby just needs a few teaspoons at each feeding, 6-8 times in 24 hours. Feed your baby when he/she shows hunger cues: opening his/her mouth, sucking on his/her fingers, stretching, smacking sounds with his/her lips. By day 4, your baby will drink 1-3 ounces (30-90 mL) of formula every 3-4 hours. As your baby gets older, this amount will increase.

How to prepare formula
 
Formula comes in 3 forms: ready-to-use (the most expensive), liquid concentrate and powder (the least expensive). Formula comes in three forms: ready-to-use (the most expensive), liquid concentrate and powder (the least expensive). You must add cooled boiled water to the concentrate and the powder. Follow the preparation directions on the can.

Bottles, nipples, nipple rings, caps and bottle brushes must be washed in warm soapy water and sterilized before each use. Throw away any formula that has not been used within 48 hours of being prepared. Discard any unused formula after a feeding. Your nurse will give more details on how to prepare formula.

Learn more about formula on the Government of Canada website.


You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.